Windows 7 Killer App Is Windows XP

One of the major criticisms of Windows Vista was that for whatever benefits and drawbacks it did have, there was no compelling reason to upgrade.

That is, there was no killer application to compel users to upgrade leaving Microsoft with no options other than to try and force people to Windows Vista by ending their ability to purchase Windows XP. In the end, Microsoft’s heavy handed action may have been what actually killed Windows Vista.

Left to their own devices and choices, consumers may have eventually moved voluntarily to Vista, especially after the Service Packs addressed some of the major issues. But, once Microsoft made it a “must” to upgrade, everyone rebelled against being forced to move (and pay more money) when they didn’t even want to.

Since then, Microsoft has put all of its eggs in the Windows 7 basket.

Senior company executives no longer try to make the case for businesses to upgrade to Vista, and indeed, all things Vista have fallen off the radar of both online and mainstream media. The only thing that matters now, is when will Windows 7 ship?


Windows 7 Release Candidate Official Launch Availability

Part of the when will Windows 7 ship question was answered on the Windows Team Blog. The Windows 7 RC will be released on April 30th for MSDN and TechNet subscribers, which means it will be easily available all over the Internet minutes later (it’s already available on many Torrent sites). For those waiting for the official Microsoft go-ahead, public availability will start on May 5th.

Lost among all the noise is the critical question:

Is there a compelling reason to upgrade to Windows 7?

Microsoft repeats the mantra that Windows 7 was designed and developed in response to user feedback about 20 times on its official Windows 7 materials and previews. It’s almost as if the company feels like users are never satisfied. Welcome to the world of software development folks!

So, what amazing new features has Microsoft crammed into Windows 7 based on what us users said we want?

First, and foremost, is the promise that Windows 7 is faster and easier. Faster and easier than what, isn’t exactly specified. One would hope that Windows 7 is quicker than the bloated Vista, but is Windows 7 faster than Windows XP?

However, other than the promise of “faster and easier” there seems to be little that one would call compelling in Windows 7. Many of the touted features are more like add-ons or plug-ins that operating system upgrades.

For example, the taskbar’s tiny, wordless icons, with mouse over previews of what each icon stands for is a nice update for a world in which more and more users run multiple programs at the same time. On the other hand, it seems very reminiscent of many browser plug-ins that give you a preview of a link or search result. Again, it is a nice feature, but also something could be easily added to Windows XP via third-party utility or as part of a Microsoft power pack type of offering.

Likewise, Jump Lists are nothing more than the Windows XP start menu with items that are “frequent” marked more clearly. My Windows XP start menu already has 6 programs that I put there manually to always be accessible without clicking Programs, and then the 5 programs that XP dynamically puts there based on usage. The recently used files and folders has been disabled for privacy reasons, something that I will have to replicate on Windows 7.

The improved drivers and devices interfaces are welcome changes to the confusing morass of unstandardized configuration options in previous editions of Windows. What remains to be seen is whether or not vendors play ball by putting their configuration in Microsoft’s new device management area, or if they instead continue to insist that users download a special utility for each device and do not provide all of the same configuration options in the Device Stage as they do inside their own utilities.

After that, the improvements to Windows 7 seem to be mostly added flash. Handwriting recognition and touch screen can already be supported if users require them, though few do, because neither is really ready for prime-time anyway.

Themes are pretty and fun, but are likely the first thing to be disabled by corporate IT departments. They’ll be quickly disabled by many users as well if they are a drag on performance.


Windows 7 Compelling To Business, Accepted By Customers

Feeling nervous about Windows 7 and how this will all go down? Don’t be. Microsoft has a different strategy this time and it has already paid with all the mud on its face from Vista for the important Windows 7 features.

The new driver structure and higher hardware requirements for Vista were one of its major stumbling blocks as multiple devices failed to work with Vista’s more stringent requirements. This means that going forward, drivers from both the major vendors and the cheap knockoffs will be less likely to cause crashes or other troubles.

At the time, no one cared because their hardware wasn’t working, but now that pretty much every piece of hardware that comes out complies with the Vista standard, they’ll work fine with the Windows 7 standard which is built directly from Vista. Likewise, the hardware that ran Vista, will run Windows 7.

With an extra couple of years between Vista’s release and Windows 7’s release, hardware that does not meet the minimums gets further and further away from being reasonable to expect it to still work with the latest software.

Other big features from the business side include the extension of Bitlocker, a file security and encryption system designed to end the flood of letters customers receive telling them that a company laptop has been lost or stolen and that if they want one free year of credit report monitoring the company will pay for it. With widespread adoption at the company level, IT can rest assured that lost laptops are only valuable for their hardware, and not for what is stored on their disk drives.

But, in what be the biggest killer app available for Windows 7, the new operating system comes with Windows XP mode.

We’ve discussed how other services like MDOP might help convince business to upgrade to Windows 7. Now, there is an even easier way to guarantee that your old printers and applications work after you upgrade to Windows 7, just switch to Windows XP mode and run them like you used to!

Unlike MDOP which is only available to businesses with a service level agreement, XP mode will be available in Windows 7 Professional, and up.

This move not only makes upgrading more attractive, it also helps push customers to buy the higher priced editions of Windows. Today, most home users don’t know why they would want to increase the price of that Dell PC they built online by $75 to get “Professional”, but they’ll know exactly why when the screen tells them that Windows 7 Home doesn’t come with XP mode.


Still No Reason to Move, But No Reason To Stay Either

So, is there a compelling reason to run out and buy Windows 7?

No, but there is no reason to fight it either. Users who are happily running their 9 year old computers with Windows XP can keep doing it. Everyone else will be offered Windows 7 and this time, unlike with Vista, there won’t be any reason to kick and scream about it.

Windows 7 – Coming to a PC near you … sooner or later … when your old one dies … we’ll be waiting. — Microsoft


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